By Darnell Abbott
Fall is my absolute favorite season. After the sweltering dog days of summer, those first crisp, low humidity days are such a relief and it is a joy to be outside. I want to spend a little time addressing the advantages of planting trees and shrubs in the fall rather than spring. As an owner of Abbott’s Farm, Garden and Gun, in the town of Halifax, Va., (everyone refers to us as Abbott’s) I have been in the business of helping customers pick out trees and shrubs for over 20 years.
There is no denying that after a winter spent indoors, when the cold temperatures give way to warmer spring days and the earth is waking up after a season of hibernation, it is human nature to want to plant trees and shrubs after seeing how beautiful they are with their spring blooms. I am thinking of trees such as redbuds, dogwoods, and flowering ornamental cherries, and shrubs such as forsythia, spirea, quince, lilacs, azaleas, hydrangeas, and roses.
But, think about what’s happening in the spring. These beauties have been dormant in their nursery pots and when the weather warms, they start waking up, expending quite a bit of energy producing flowers and leaves. Planting them from the nursery pots to their new home can be shocking just at the time they are working so hard to come back to life; now they have to get used to a new home and surroundings, put out new roots, and cope with the stress of summer heat and perhaps not enough rain.
Planting trees and shrubs in the fall allows them to get settled in their new environment as they’re going dormant and not having to work so hard. This gives them a head start the following spring. The same is true for hardwoods such as oaks and maples as well as evergreens such as conifers and hollies. While not a flowering tree/shrub, their growth slows down in fall and winter and fall planting allows them to settle in before the stresses that summer heat can bring. Keep in mind that even though the temperatures are cooler, it is still important to water occasionally if there is not sufficient rain.
One last thing to consider when you’re tree/shrub shopping: the plant material is not going to look as lovely as it does in early spring. There might be some heat scorch on the leaves, or the leaves are dropping or have already dropped, so it might look like just sticks in a pot. It is a leap of faith to plant something that looks “dead,” but trust that spring is right around the corner. And, I will repeat myself from a previous article: (https://hycolakemagazine.com/gardening-to-do-list-spring-2020/) consider soil amendment. I always say, “dig a $100 hole for a $10 tree” and I advise customers not to spend all their budget on plant material only. Save some for giving that tree/shrub a fair start by using products that aid in good drainage and put organic matter back into the soil.
Darnell Abbott is the Managing Partner of Abbott Farm Suppliers – Abbott Farm, Garden and Gun, a family owned store since 1980 specializing in the well-rounded outdoor lifestyle. In case you’re wondering, here are some of her personal favorites: Season: Fall. Activity: Gardening and Hiking. Hardwood Tree: Maple